Football Informant 9/17/11

It seems difficult to believe, but one quarter of the college football regular season has already passed. And what a season it has been so far! There have been stunning upsets and unlikely contenders, capped off with one of the greatest games in recent memory when Notre Dame visited Michigan under the lights. This is the time of year when Vanderbilt is tied for the SEC East lead, when Iowa State is still unbeaten and when Notre Dame has already fallen short of lofty expectations… again. Michigan has begun its annual creep into the bottom of the rankings, soon to be relegated out again once Big Twelve, ahem, Big Ten play begins. There have been the annual slew of SEC non-conference marquee wins – Oregon, Penn State, and… not really anyone else important. The bottom half of the SEC has also participated in a number of less-publicized marquee losses, as Clemson, Louisville, and most prominently Boise State would like to point out. Hopefully, the nation’s most top-heavy conference will not be mistaken as the top-to-bottom best conference this year. There is no clear title favorite, and no team is invulnerable this year. Rumors of realignment are shaking the landscape, but for now, the regular season of this American pastime is well underway in all its grandeur.

For all the action so far, there have been few games of serious national consequence. Only one legitimate national title contender has lost a game so far, with LSU topping Oregon in convincing fashion. Florida State is talented, but there is no case to be made that the Seminoles stood a realistic shot at the crystal ball, and Oklahoma effectively put a stop to any remaining hype in registering perhaps the second-most impressive victory of the young season. Alabama and Boise State have also cruised through early road challenges, while Stanford and South Carolina have struggled. No other top contender has even been challenged in the first few games.

This simply goes to show the utter absurdity of attempting to rank teams so early in the season. Often, a team will not find its identity until well into the season – contrast Auburn early last season, barely winning against Mississippi State and Clemson, with Auburn by the end of the year, with dominating wins over LSU and South Carolina and a ridiculous comeback victory at Alabama. Anything could happen, and it probably will. For instance, South Florida could easily go undefeated with a soft Big East schedule and reach a BCS bowl game (Crazy Prediction #1). Or perhaps Boise State will go undefeated and only reach a BCS bowl game (Non-Crazy Prediction #1). Who can say? In the meantime, here are your Football Informant Big Game Picks for this (hopefully) highly entertaining week 4.

LSU by 13 at West Virginia
Oklahoma State by 4 at Texas A&M
Alabama by 10 vs. Arkansas
CU in OT at Ohio State
Vanderbilt by 3 at South Carolina (Crazy Prediction #2)
USC by 10 at Arizona State

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